Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review # 83: Shift by Hugh Howey

The last of Howey’s brilliant three-part trilogy delivers a fitting end to this metaphorical treatise on the state of our world, and what it will take to redeem it from its headlong rush into folly. The “Silo Saga,” as the trilogy has unofficially come to be called, tells the story of the remnants of mankind hundreds of years into the future, now living in vast underground silos, which are slowly but surely facing their end days.

The two main characters driving the action of this final third are Juliette, first introduced in Wool and then the heroine of Dust, and Donald, the engineer of the silos who has awakened (literally and figuratively) to the original insidious design behind them.  To sum up the action thus far: Juliette is a strong-willed young woman from the mechanical depths of Silo 18, who asked too many questions, challenged too many rigid conventions, and ended up condemned to death by being thrust outside her silo into a toxic environment to die. However, a suit secretly modified by her supporters enabled her to make her way to what turns out to be a dead Silo 17, apparently devoid of humanity and partially flooded. When she discovers a handful of survivors living in its depths, she vows to return to her own home, solve the mystery behind the silos, and enlighten her people who in her absence have suffered a bloody insurrection. Her return to Silo 18 is met with suspicion and distrust by many who have been indoctrinated for life to believe that they are all there is of the surviving world, and she faces an uphill battle to bring the survivors of Silo 17 back into society while breaking the isolation of Silo 18.

Juliette’s lover Lucas, meanwhile, has managed to get into clandestine radio contact with Donald over in Silo One, and together they begin to unravel the terrifying conspiracy behind the Silo design. Donald has just been awakened from hundreds of years of cryogenically-induced sleep and is in a race against time –and against his nemesis Senator Thurman–to save the many thousands living in isolated Silos from the endgame that was plotted by Thurman back in the beginning.

Okay, all that said, Shift has a very different feel than either Wool or Dust.  The reader is no longer in the dark as to who and what is going on, the plot is dense and more convoluted, with more overtones of a cinematic thriller.  It is truly edge-of-your-seat excitement, and the end is as hopeful as you can get for a dystopic novel. It did leave me with a bunch of questions that I felt Howey left unanswered, and while it is true that an author is not obliged to wrap up all loose threads, in this case I would have appreciated it. Still, a great and highly recommended read.

Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #47: Little Green by Walter Mosley

Mosley’s newest novel takes us back to one of his first leading men, black detective Easy Rawlins, only this time Easy is facing an existential crisis of vast proportions, and Mosley invites his readers to plunge into the challenge of finding one’s purpose in life right alongside his hero.

Rawlins has just awakened in his hospital bed after two months in a near fatal coma. It appears he had driven off a cliff in a drunken stupor after losing his complicated ladylove Bonnie, but he is found the next day—broken and unconscious—by his friend Mouse and slowly manages to return to the world where Mouse is waiting with a new mystery for him to solve. Easy is a middle-aged survivor in 1960s Watts, and has earned the grudging respect of people on all sides of the divide—criminals, cops, con-men and ordinary people just trying to make it through. He is the single father of two adopted children, and a fearless righter of wrongs. Listening to a barely conscious Easy trying to fathom why he is still alive is unexpectedly painful, and watching him struggle for the strength to stay upright while launching into an investigation of a missing young man from the neighborhood even more so.

Why Easy insists on rising from his sick bed to pursue this new mystery is at first inexplicable not only to the reader, but to his friends and family as well, until one slowly realizes that it is only in this way that Easy can, in fact, justify his existence to himself. And thus we travel Easy’s road back to life along with him.

 Mosely gives us a very different setting in this novel. The hippie drug/sex counterculture is in its heyday in Los Angeles, and the young man known as “Little Green” seems to have crossed accidentally into that world and disappeared. Fueled by some herbal “witch’s brew” prepared for Easy by the mysterious Mama Jo, who seems to understand Easy’s identity crisis, our hero tracks down the young man who has innocently managed to cross some very dangerous people, and goes about knitting up the holes he uncovers along the way.

A different Easy Rawlins mystery, to be sure, but a satisfying one in the end.